The accusation came during an ill-tempered debate over a request for the release of a report at Tuesday night’s (July 7) full council meeting
The leader of Guildford Borough Council, Stephen Mansbridge (Con, Ash South & Tongham), has accused the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) of withholding disclosable interests.
All councillors are required to disclose pecuniary interests which might affect their judgement on council matters. All such interests have to be entered on a council register and are viewable as public records. (See Cllr Parker’s register of interests here. Her home address was withheld because of a threat she had received.)
The trigger for the verbal spat was a written question submitted by Susan Parker’s GGG colleague Cllr David Reeve (Clandon & Horsley). He was asking why the council had decided that a report, the Experian Economic Forecasts report on future business growth, had been withheld following a request he had submitted, before his election, under the Environmental Information Regulations Act, 2004.
Contributing to the debate, Cllr Parker said: “When there was a forum here on the way this council should be governed the overwhelming response from all participants was that there should be increased transparency, there should be increased accountability and there should be increased openness.
“That is not the experience of most members of the public, it is not the experience, frankly, of many councillors and it is deplorable, it is something that I think there is a need to change.
“We need much more openness and we can start by actually supplying the information and putting it into the public domain information obtained on behalf of the people of Guildford, with their money. It is their information, they have a right to it and therefore it should be public.”
Cllr Parker said: “I would like to know of what I am being accused and what interest it is that I have failed to declare I would like an absolute, categorical piece of information here because I am fed up with slurs and half-truths and allegations, which are utterly unfounded, thrown in my direction. Can I please have an answer?”
Cllr Mansbridge refused to answer or retract and it was left to the Mayor, Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith (Con, Christchurch), in her capacity as meeting chairman, to say: “There seems to be no response on that at the moment.”
Cllr Parker said today (July 9): “I think I did fully disclose all disclosable pecuniary interests before the required deadline; my shareholding in the dormant, non-trading company Local Democracy Ltd has, and will have, no pecuniary value whatsoever but I made a voluntary disclosure about this.”
“If I have failed to make any appropriate disclosure then I would like Cllr Mansbridge to let me know as a matter of urgency and I will obviously correct it.”
“This is not the first inaccurate comment about me. Cllr Mansbridge made another false allegation during the electoral campaign which he subsequently retracted with an apology.”